Rhein on Energy and Climate

Just two days after the European Council has adopted the EU climate policy package, the Australian government has followed suit, presenting its “carbon pollution reduction scheme”. That is good news because it shows that the rich countries are finally getting serious for the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December 2009.

For Australia action on the climate front is more than overdue. It is one of the biggest per capita polluter of C02 and methane. It is one of richest countries on earth. Last not least, Australia is already visibly hit by ongoing climate change. Repeated droughts have wrought havoc to its important farming sector.

Still, it took a change of government for Australia in 2007 to finally wake up, ratify the Kyoto Protocol and prepare its people for a dramatic lowering of its green house gas emissions. To that end it has published a green paper last October followed by the White Paper published December 15th. The government has further underlined its seriousness by appointing a cabinet minister in charge of climate change, something other countries may also consider.

The White Paper establishes targets for the reduction of C02 emissions: 60 percent reduction until 2050, compared to 2000. Its target for 2020 is tentatively fixed between 5 and 15 percent, depending on the outcome of the Copenhagen Conference.
That may appear low, but in per capita terms it is roughly equivalent to the 20 percent reduction target adopted by the EU, as Australia’s population is expected to grow substantially.

Like the EU, Australia wants to rely on a cap and trade mechanism to implement its reduction targets, starting as of July 2010. The necessary legislation is expected to be passed in the course of 2009.

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